Rep. Eric Watson said the National Rifle Association is backing his School Safety Act of 2013.
He said, "Legislators have heard from countless constituents asking for more security in public schools. Since the drafting of this bill, four school shootings have taken place and more than nine states have inquired about his legislation for consideration in their states."
He said after the Virginia Tech shooting occurred in 2007, the Tennessee General Assembly began working on campus safety in 2008.
“Our community must continue to be vigilant in protecting our children. In Southeast Tennessee, we have a strong sense of responsibility that is the greatest safeguard (defense) against violence in our schools,” Rep. Watson said. “Schools choosing to adopt the policy will have the option to hire security or appoint highly trained staff, with training which is similar to a school resource officer which will be an additional safeguard (safety measure/defense) in protecting students.”
Current state law prohibits public schools from hiring armed security guards, he said.
Rep. Watson noted that not all schools across Tennessee have school resource officers, including several within his district. “School Resource Officers are an important part of the solution to the threats facing our students. However, SRO’s are often tasked with other responsibilities such as in-service training and court that prevent their presence at all times in our schools. This legislation will allow the local school system to fill in those gaps,” Rep. Watson stated.
“Since 2008, Campus safety has been studied by the General Assembly and it's time we take action and give our local schools more options to protect our kids.” he said.
Of the 132 members of the Tennessee General Assembly, only seven received an A+ rating from the National Rifle Association, he noted. Rep. Watson was one of those seven and he pointed out that he is the only member of the General Assembly who provides free handgun permit classes for the constituents of his district.